It’s good to be back on the rock.
My new musical, “Somewhere Between,” has taken me on quite a trip: successful developmental readings at my Los Angeles theater; a hit at the Florida Festival; and selection as a world finalist at the Munich international composers’ competition, which led to an offer of a European premiere. Now, New York producers aim for an Off-Broadway opening sometime next year.
But most exciting for me is Vashon Repertory Theatre’s invitation to have “Somewhere Between” kick off its 2022 Vashon Theatre Fest, with a Thursday, July 21 preview, and performances on Fridays and Saturdays, July 22-30. I relish the chance to hear reactions from the friends and neighbors I grew up with here on the island. I trust you guys to give honest feedback, as islanders do, and send our show on its journey a bit better than before. I also trust you’ll enjoy yourselves. I mean, gosh, there are funny parts, pretty songs, a story with twists — what else do you want?
The show’s about a dude figuring out his life in a small town. It’s about real-ish people with messy lives and no easy answers. Is it autobiographical? Well, the setting is in the middle of the USA, definitely not Vashon, but you might recognize aspects of some of the characters. Bits of the story really happened to me in one form or another. You’ve heard me sing the songs at island open mics. And my dear Drama Dock friends have tried out different drafts in their living rooms.
So, after those hometown beginnings, it feels surreal that I met a Grammy-winning Broadway orchestrator (he did “Jersey Boys”), who had time during the COVID shutdown to look at a new piece. Steve raved over the songs and story and jumped right on board to do the band arrangements. The whole group of folks we’ve pulled together on the production is quite talented, some from the island and others from around the Seattle-Tacoma area.
You know what else was surreal – sneaking into the back of that rehearsal hall in Munich a couple of years ago and hearing wonderfully skilled German actors singing my songs in perfect English, the tight jazz harmonies even better than they sound in my head.
And the businesslike lady from Vienna who walked up after the competition to say, “Herr Becker, your play is beautiful. If you ever have a German version, our publishing house wants it.” And then being introduced to their top musical translator (Martin translated “Grease” into German), who adored the script, became a great friend and joined me the next summer on my deck overlooking Quartermaster Harbor to work on the translation.
Surreal then too, to sing my best songs in a new language – and to find the poetry and feeling in the lyrics came through almost better than the original English.
Somehow this little piece of theater has attracted so many really talented and just plain nice people, that it’s become much more than the few songs and storyline I sang through with Rich and Sue Wiley and Marita Ericksen in Burton almost a decade ago.
Luckily, Charlotte and Vashon Repertory Theatre offered the invitation to present “Somewhere Between” as one of several new works in this year’s Fest. It is a perfect opportunity to test the orchestrations and polish the script in time for the New York production.
Vashon Theatre Fest was a resounding success last summer. The island is fortunate to have VRT bringing new works to light, with skilled professional artists who work all over but live here. And we, the artists, are happy to get to practice our craft close to home.
Shows like “Somewhere Between” don’t reach New York or Munich without many supporters on the way. From the days I first sang my songs in island talent shows as a kid, to attending a top acting school, to touring the world and founding a theater, I can confirm it helps hugely to come from a place that strongly supports and celebrates the arts.
That kind of community forms a creative rock to stand on and take flight from: a rock like this one we call home, which exists nowhere else on this earth.
Today, let me thank this rock and you, its people – hoping I can thank you in person at the Vashon Center for the Arts, Fridays and Saturdays the last two weekends in July.
Islander Alan Becker is a professional actor, writer and director who wrote the book, music and lyrics of “Somewhere Between.” For more information on the show and other Vashon Theatre Fest offerings, and to purchase tickets, visit vashonrepertorytheatre.org.
Correction: This commentary, in The Beachcomber’s July 14 edition, omitted the last name of Marita Ericksen, and misspelled her first name. We regret the error, and agree that Ericksen has long been and continues to be an inspiration to many theater artists and singers on Vashon!